[kreek, krik]
Creek, Native North American confederacy. The peoples forming it were mostly of the Muskogean branch of the Hokan-Siouan linguistic stock (see Native American languages). The Creek received their name from early white traders because so many of their villages were located at rivers and creeks. They lived primarily in Alabama and Georgia and were settled, agricultural people. There were more than 50 towns, generally called tribes, in the confederacy, which was formed chiefly for protection against the tribes to the north. Certain villages were set aside for war ceremonies, others for peace celebrations. Each had its annual green corn dance. This festival was a time for renewing social ties and was a period of amnesty for criminals, except murderers. The Creek Confederacy was not ruled by a permanent central government. The structure was a combination of democratic and communal principles. Decisions by the national council were not binding on towns or individuals who wished to dissent. Nevertheless, civil strife was almost unknown among them. Private ownership of land was unknown, but crops were privately owned to a degree. Each owner was required to contribute a certain portion for public use.

The Creek impressed the first European explorers (Hernando De Soto saw them in 1540) by their height, their proud bearing, and their love of ornament. They were hostile to the Spanish and therefore friendly to the British in colonial days, but, frightened by white encroachment and fired by the teachings of the Shawnee chief Tecumseh, they rebelled in the Creek War of 1813-14. They massacred a large number of American settlers at Fort Mims, and Andrew Jackson won part of his reputation by defeating them at the battle of Horseshoe Bend. By a treaty signed in 1814 the Creek ceded approximately two thirds of their land to the United States, and subsequent cessions further reduced their holdings. Eventually they were moved to the Indian Territory, where they became one of the Five Civilized Tribes. A treaty signed by the confederacy in 1889 permitted white settlement of their lands, and there was great bitterness among the Creek. In 1990 there were over 45,000 Creek, most of them living in Oklahoma.

See J. R. Swanton, The Early History of the Creek Indians (1922) and Social Origins and Social Usages of the Indians of the Creek Confederacy (1928, repr. 1970); G. Foreman, The Five Civilized Tribes (new ed. 1953, repr. 1966); D. H. Corkran, The Creek Frontier, 1540-1783 (1967).

or Muscogee

Ben Perryman, a Creek Indian, painting by George Catlin, 1836; in the Smithsonian American Art elipsis

Muskogean-speaking North American Indian people living mainly in Oklahoma, U.S., and also in Georgia and Alabama. A fluid confederation of groups that occupied much of the Georgia and Alabama flatlands before colonization, the Creek comprised two major divisions: the Upper Creeks (living on the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers) and the Lower Creeks (living on the Chatahootchee and Flint rivers). They cultivated corn, beans, and squash. Each Creek town had a plaza or community square, often with a temple, around which were built rectangular houses. Religious observances included the Busk (Green Corn Festival), an annual first-fruits and new-fires rite. In the 18th century a Creek Confederacy—including the Natchez, Yuchi, Shawnee, and others—was organized to present a united front against both European and Indian enemies. Ultimately, the confederacy did not succeed, in part because the Creek towns (about 50, with a total population of perhaps 20,000) were not able to coordinate the contribution of warriors to a common battle plan. The Creek War against the U.S. (1813–14) ended with the defeated Creeks ceding 23 million acres. Subsequently most were forcibly removed to Indian Territory (Oklahoma). Creek descendants numbered more than 71,300 in the early 21st century.

Learn more about Creek with a free trial on

Creek may refer to:

+ creek , a sound of the floorboards

Search another word or see creekon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature